Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(15)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(15)
Author: Nalini Singh

Ransom was the first to lower his gun. “Shit. We thought you f**king lost it, man.”

Darrell didn’t lower his own gun an inch until Elena slid hers back into the holster.

“The Guild,” she said to Honey, in an effort to defuse the tension, “will pay for the damage.”

The other woman rolled pretty hazel eyes set in a Botticelli face. “I’ll send them a bill. Now shut the damn door and come in before you get me kicked out of my apartment. I’ll make coffee.”

“Ellie found out about the weapons,” Ransom said to Darrell after the redhead disappeared down the hallway. “We were afraid you were planning to go on a rampage.”

“I thought about it.” A flat statement, his skin several shades lighter than his grandmother’s, eyes a dark gray. “It was when I started working out the best vantage points for a sniper that I locked all weapons except this one in my gun safe, changed the combination blind so I couldn’t open it without a blowtorch, and came here.”

“Whatever your excuse,” Elena said, tone hard because Darrell needed it to be hard, “you should’ve checked in with the Guild—and your gran.”

It was her final statement that got his attention, his eyes tortured. “I knew she’d be able to tell I was in trouble, and she’s so sick. I didn’t want to worry her.”

Elena threw him her phone, unable to forget the trembling of Ms. Flaherty’s hands. “Do it now.”

The smell of coffee filtered into the air just as he finished the call, and Honey padded back to the entranceway. “Y’all planning to come in and visit, or just stand around looking badass?”

Elena grinned, deciding she liked the other woman, just as Ransom folded his arms high on his chest. “I’m always up for looking badass.”

“Except for the hair, right?” Darrell said, a glint in his eye.

Ransom showed him the finger and all at once there was no more tension.

A half hour and a cup of coffee later, Darrell turned himself in to the Guild, ready to undergo a psych evaluation and to actually cooperate with the counselor. It was a small win for the good guys, but Elena would take it. Now she had to fly home and do her best to help Raphael forge an alliance that could mean the safety of hundreds of thousands, the scale of death that might result from an archangelic war incomprehensible.

• • •

After a day that had involved countless subtle strategic moves as he positioned his city in readiness to defend against an attack from an unknown enemy, Raphael stood beside his consort on the lawn of their home, watching Elijah and Hannah come in to land. The other pair had decided to stay at an undisclosed location about an hour’s flight from the Enclave, though they’d notified Raphael the instant they crossed over into his territory.

“It’s like a courtship, isn’t it?” Elena murmured, her flowing gown of blue-green silk a cool kiss of spring in the arms of winter. “Both of you being so well behaved and formal.”

I understand the allusion, hbeebti, but perhaps you can find another term. He brushed his wing over her own, pleased to see she appeared to carry no residual soreness. I have no desire to court Elijah.

Amusement in a face that showed only the faintest touch of immortality, the transition far too slow to protect her from the dangers on the horizon. Yet Elena was not one to sit in safety. No, his hunter would fight beside him, come what may. That was who she was, as he was an archangel who’d battle to the death to protect his own.

“Elijah” he said, once the visiting couple had folded away their wings, “my consort and I welcome you.”

“We are glad to be here, Raphael.” Elijah’s gaze met his before he turned to acknowledge Elena with a formal bow of his head, his aristocratic profile the inspiration to countless sculptors over the millennia of his existence, his hair golden against skin of a paler gold.

Raphael made the introductions, was unsurprised when Elena greeted Elijah with warmth and poise, despite her reservations about “not knowing which fork to use,” as she’d put it. Then, before he could warn her that protocol between two consorts dictated she must call Hannah by her title of Consort until invited otherwise, she smiled and said, “I’m so happy to meet you at last, Hannah.”

Elijah’s consort beamed and held out her hands instead of taking insult, her exuberant black curls swept back with jeweled combs, the ebony of her skin glowing in the red-orange of sunset. The storm clouds had passed with only a single heavy shower and the air tasted of ozone, clean and fresh, erasing any final traces of the blood that had soaked into the earth on which they stood . . . but the scar remained. No one would ever forget the day the angels fell.

“I say the same, Elena.” Hannah’s response was made in a voice clear and musical, the two women’s hands touching. “I came to the Refuge especially to see you, you know, but Raphael was remorselessly protective and did not trust me at all. He was right—had I seen your wings up close, I would’ve hounded you until you agreed to sit for me.”

Face alight, Elena drew the shorter woman in the direction of the house, Hannah’s gown of deep bronze brushing against her own. “I was as graceless as a baby bird when I first woke and irritable about it,” she confessed. “I’d have been a dreadful subject.”

Raphael didn’t hear Hannah’s answer, the two women having moved a small distance away, but their mingled laughter floated on the air. “I’m not so sure we’ve done the right thing in bringing together the only two consorts in the Cadre,” he said to Elijah as they followed in the women’s wake.

“Ah, but could we have stopped it?”

Exchanging a glance with the other archangel that would’ve been understood by no other in the Cadre, he led the other man through the main doors, the dinner to take place in the sprawling formal living area/dining room off the hallway. Soaring ceiling, hand-polished floor of rare wood, and arching windows that drenched the room in sunlight or moonlight depending on the time of day, it was a room meant to impress.

Elena had taken one look at it, in the days after she moved in, and said, “We’re eating at the table by the library windows, where I can talk to Your Archangelness without needing a megaphone.”

Did you bring your megaphone, Guild Hunter? he asked, aware of Montgomery and his staff clearing away, having quietly carried in champagne and canapés.

A narrow-eyed glance over her shoulder. Where exactly would I put it in this dress? I couldn’t even figure out a way to wear panties without ruining the line of the slinky thing.

Raphael’s blood heated as Hannah said, “Elijah, look,” her voice potent with wonder.

Grabbing her consort’s hand, the dark-haired woman tugged him to the glorious painting of the Refuge that dominated the far end of the room. It ran across the entire wall and was a study in painful blue and piercing white over rocky gray, but for the wings of the angels flying above the city, each painted in intricate detail.

“This is Dahariel.” Hannah brushed her fingers reverently over wings patterned like an eagle’s, and Raphael knew her admiration wasn’t for the named angel but for the artist who’d captured him on canvas. “And, oh, it’s Galen with three of Jessamy’s little ones.”

“This is the Hummingbird’s work.”

“No, it is Aodhan’s,” Hannah said in response to Elijah’s murmur.

Scowling, Elijah leaned closer to the work. “Where’s the signature?”

“Neither one signs their work in the usual fashion.” Hannah scowled back at her consort. “We must find the clue in the image.”

You are wearing no panties with another male in the room? Raphael ran his hand down Elena’s spine and over her lower curves, searching for lines and finding nothing but firm feminine flesh. You truly aren’t.

Elena’s shoulders shook, deep creases in her cheeks. Oh, my God, you’re scandalized! Eyes tearing up in the effort to fight her laughter, she pressed her hands to his chest and stared down at the floor. Should I tell you I did find a way to wear a knife? In a thigh sheath.

Of course you did. What do panties matter so long as you have your steel.

Stop it! Her shoulders shook harder, the diamond-studded pin that anchored the knot at the nape of her neck catching the light as her touch seared him through the crisp white of his formal shirt. I’m trying to be elegant and graceful and consortlike.

Cupping her nape, he squeezed. Our guests are about to turn.

Refusing to look at Raphael for fear any eye contact would set her off, Elena walked with the other couple into the living area of the large open-plan space.

“This is a lovely room.” Hannah took a seat on an elegant gold settee, as Elena had learned the piece of furniture was called, her wings flowing gracefully around the back support. The other woman’s feathers were a deep, luxuriant cream with blushes of peach on the primaries and appeared so lushly soft that Elena was tempted to commit social suicide, sneak a touch.

“The little tables there,” Hannah said as Elena fought the uncivilized and very unconsortlike impulse, “who was the designer?”

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